things i've learned in the past almost seven months

1. Grief is a wild ride, and you don't always get the reigns.
Shortly after we started working together, my therapist referenced the Kübler-Ross model of "five stages of grief" or DABDA. She said to me that we often look at this model, or any model having to do with the impact and reverberations of grief, as something linear. But that in reality, grief is kind of the boss right now and my subconscious will continue to unpack this trauma in its own way. I can't count on knowing what will come up next, but I might find solace in the Kübler-Ross model, and I can kind of keep the concepts close to me to help me cope. Or, just to feel less crazy. Loosening my grip on the process and just kind of letting it happen to me has been profoundly difficult, but it's also been profoundly necessary. The amount of time I've spent parked at any one stage of grief has varied SIGNIFICANTLY, and there are times when I come back around and feel something again, but differently.

2. Self-care sometimes looks ridiculous, but you have to do it.
2a. No one can tell you what your version self-care looks like. They can tell you, by purely subjective assessment of your well-being, that it's working...maybe. But no one other than YOU has any agency over what your version of self-care looks like. I imagine that this could complicate things for people who don't know themselves well, or who have patterns of self-destructive behavior, or who don't like themselves very much. So, at the beginning, self-care might just be sitting with yourself figuring out what the hell you're going to do to care for yourself. That's OK.

2b. Don't apologize for, or feel like you need to justify, whatever you decide to do in order to take care of yourself. This summer, I got pedicures every other week. Sitting in the obnoxiously vibrating chair on Friday mornings, having my feet exfoliated and my toes painted was wildly restorative for me. I escaped reality for an hour, I talked to someone who didn't know my personal history and didn't drag me through painful conversations, and I left feeling mostly renewed.

Other things I do to take care of myself? Craft, sometimes compulsively. Sometimes I ask to be left alone, others I ask for people to just be around me. I started to pay attention to what I was eating and how it made me feel. I realized that expending energy meant I had more, so I moved around more. I started Tumblrs to dump feelings and images that resonated with me. I tried to make some new friends. I joined OK Cupid so I had some concept of what was out there for me in the dating world. I disabled my OK Cupid account when I realized it was a terrifying reality (::shudder::). I plan parties. I hug babies. I buy colorful pants. I try to do spontaneous things. I go to therapy every week. Things like that.

3. You have to trust people.
Shortly after my life changed, I had trouble believing that I could talk to people I loved about my feelings and needs without them abandoning me as punishment. My ex's departure had eroded my ability to trust pretty much everyone. I wept in therapy about the most minor discussions that I needed to have in order to have very basic needs met, because I didn't want people to hear my complaints and dump me. Over time, I developed the courage to say the things I needed to say, and I said them. Everything was fine. The only person I really needed to stop trusting was my ex. My family and friends -- people who had existed long before my ex ever showed up, and who loved me in ways that my ex didn't -- were going to be there for me no matter what. There is no magical technique for overcoming this trust wall. You just have to do it. You have to clutch your chest, fall backwards, and know that the people you love will be there to catch you.

4. Have a script.
A few weeks ago, I was at a baby shower for a dear friend and her step-mother asked me how my marriage was going with such earnest enthusiasm I wanted to hug her. Earlier this week, one of the reps I work with at my day job did the same thing. It would be really easy for me to get bogged down in their inquiries and feel badly about my life. Instead, I did my best to answer them patiently, thoughtfully, and simply. "You're right, I did get married, But it didn't work out and it's for the best! How are you?" That's pretty much what I say now to people on the outer circles of my life. I don't want them to feel badly for asking, I don't want to lie to them, and I don't want to talk about it any more than acknowledging that it's done.

This weekend would've been my one year wedding anniversary. I was pretty confident that it would make me feel heaping tons of sad, but thus far I've felt OK. I honor that those feelings might change, I have things scheduled that will help me take care of myself with people I love and trust, and I know that I can talk about it as much or as little as I want. My life feels so much more stable now. I'm content. And my constant mantra? I belong deeply to myself.

1 comment:

  1. You are AWESOME Cinny! Love you tons!

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.